Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother's Day Tipples

I was looking for something light that wouldn't trash my Greatest Generation mom this Sunday. It should be noted that Mom could probably still--in her late eighties--drink most people under the table. You'd expect someone of her venerable years to like the World War Two era highballs when she's indulging, but around the time she turned 80, one of my mom's old friends got her onto apple martinis--a total club-kid drink. She enjoyed them mightily for a few years--seldom more than one, but those things are quite strong. One is plenty. We still have a bottle of that neon-colored apple pucker stuff in the house. Fortunately, it's gathering dust. It's odd and fakey. More suited to the cocktail bar scene in Star Wars than anything else.

This Fall, when my Dad (who's 90 in a couple of months, and tack-sharp still) was briefly in the hospital, Mom stayed with us, and I introduced her to a cocktail called a Presbyterian that I think I've mentioned in this blog and on the show. It's essentially a highball: ginger ale, bourbon, and fresh lime juice. A little less extreme, and she found that one of them suited her end-of-the-day desires just fine. Dad's just fine, too, by the way. I know. I'm lucky.

I'm thinking she may want only a glass of champagne with her brunch on Mother's Day (Mom LOVES the bubbly), but if she wants a mixed drink, I found this recipe that is light, refreshing, and good if you're going to be bad and have a drink with a festive mid-day meal.

Gypsy Punch

1 and 1/2 oz. light rum
1/4 oz. real grenadine (make your own, or buy a brand that uses pomegranate juice and no corn syrup)
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon bar sugar (to taste--or you could add a titch more granadine)

Shake the above ingredients in an iced shaker, strain into a highball glass filled with ice, and fill with seltzer. Grate a little fresh nutmeg on top. Serve with a straw.

Crushed ice is nice in the highball glass, if you have the patience.

Happy Mother's Day! See you at at 4 Eastern--and stay tuned for our big switch to Area 24 Radio--SOON!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Memory Challenges

Of course the problem with being the resident cocktail nerd among your friends is that you can't travel with all your vintage and repro cocktail manuals--and it would be Very Bad to spill a Jupiter into your laptop after you'd used the 'puter to look up that recipe online. So although a good cocktail can make you FORGET the cares of the day, let's face it: there are some things you just have to memorize.

For me that's a couple of basic rules. Rule one: a shot equals about an ounce and a half (two if you're being generous). Ice, mixer and a highball glass, and you have a highball.

Rule two: a basic sour is an ounce and a half of booze, 3/4 of an ounce of a sweet liqueur(s), and 3/4 of an ounce of a tart citrus juice(s) of your choosing. Do it with tequila, cointreau and lime and you've got a (very simple) Margarita. Do it with vodka, cointreau, lime and a splash of cranberry juice and it's a Cosmo. Use lime and rum and you've got a Daiquiri. And an Aviation is a gin sour, using lemon juice, maraschino and creme de violette. Shake 'em up, and strain 'em into a chilled cocktail glass and there you go; the same formula more or less holds for them all. Goose the citrus up a bit and goose the sweet down a tad to your taste. It makes a smallish cocktail, but I'm not of the school that a drink needs to be served in a goldfish bowl. (A good cocktail is a strong drink. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.)

There are plenty of other drinks that like irregular verbs, make the language of cocktail-age richer and more maddening. Those you will need your books for. But some other drinks are easy to remember because they call for equal parts of all their ingredients: a classic Negroni is equal parts of gin, red vermouth, and Campari--although I've had the drink mixed in somewhat different proportions and enjoyed it.

Here's a drink I found this week that fits into equal parts of all category:

The Cafe Royal Special

Equal parts: Gin, fresh lemon juice, white vermouth, and sloe gin. Shake hard, serve in a cocktail glass, up.

It's an interesting drink, brilliant red as sloe gin drinks usually are, and not stupid-strong. The trick to having it not be too cotton-candy-ish (and sloe gin drinks can be like that) is to use good sloe gin. I have some OK stuff that I got at the local booze shop, but what really works best in this or any sloe gin drink is Plymouth Sloe Gin. It's considerably more expensive than the garden-variety stuff, and absolutely worth it.

See you at at 4 Eastern today!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gilroy Was Here

Another hectic week!

Darling goddaughter's 18th, celebrated high atop the Potter building, was a smash hit, thanks to Herr Potter elbowing out the kitchen staff and preparing some of his famed Indiana Fried Chicken. I guess it's not news to anyone who actually LIVES with high school seniors that they can eat like a plague of locusts in the Old Testament. As a couple who seem to have forgotten to produce offspring, we can only marvel.

Weather was mostly springy-perfect, if you like your days peppered with itchy eyes and prolonged sneeze-fits. I read somewhere that you need higher mathematics to express the pollen count that has been kicking up allergies we didn't even know we had in this swanky neighborhood near you.

Last spring and summer, I made a lot of Mai Tais and Singapore Slings. They were tropical and seemed like the thing, but this year, I'm a little bored with them. And yet, like the little girl I once was, the one who once loved the cherry life saver the best out of all the candies in the roll, I still crave something on the sweet side in this sweet in-between season. Mind you, nothing icky, but a nuanced application of Cherry Heering can be a pleasant thing.

I experimented a bit with a drink called a Gilroy this week. Don't know the precise history of it, but what it tastes like is a slightly more concentrated, slightly less sweet Singapore Sling. It's served up, in a cocktail glass. Here's where I'm at with the recipe:

The Gilroy

1/2 oz lemon juice (at least--you could go up to 3/4 oz)
1/2 oz good dry vermouth
3/4 oz Cherry Heering (or a little, wee bit less)
3/4 oz gin--I used Plymouth, but you could go a bit heavier with the aromatics in your choice of brand
a couple good dashes of orange bitters

Taste before you shake, for balance. There's a sweet/sour/herbal/bitter thing going on here, and it should all be present.

Shake HARD--you want this one cold--and serve in a chilled cocktail glass, up. I used a quarter of a lemon wheel, perched on the rim of the glass, as a garnish. Could also see, for folks who really like tart, running one of the spent lemons over the rim of the glass but NOT sugaring it.

It's an interesting drink, just the thing for a mild spring evening when the apple blossoms are just beginning to drift down like benign snow. I don't have it quite nailed yet, though, so feel free to play with the proportions. It absolutely doesn't have to be sweeter, but I don't think it should be too bracingly sour.

I read of an older version of this drink, that skips the lemon and orange bitters, and uses kirsch. Might be interesting, but it sounded wintery. Besides, any excuse to use orange bitters is a good thing, I think!

Drink up, and see you at 4 Eastern today on!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Legalities, tax day--A Bacardi Cocktail

This will be short, because I'm on the fly today. My darling goddaughter is celebrating her 18th birthday tomorrow, so Cocktails with Chris is going on the air a day early--that's today, Tax Day, April 15th, at 4 Eastern.

And because it is Tax Day and a warm, springy one, I thought a cocktail with a legal history would be good today. Hence, The Bacardi Cocktail, which legally MUST be made with Bacardi rum. There was actually a court case back in the day. I went straight to their website, thinking it would be good to obey the law in all things today.

So sign your forms, drop 'em in the mail, and mix this one up:

The Bacardi Cocktail

2 parts Bacardi rum. Silver works best, I think, but you COULD use amber
2/3 part fresh lime juice
1/4 part real pomegranate grenadine (Bacardi suggests Monin, but you can make your own easily enough by simple syrup-izing some Pom)

Shake really, really hard with a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice (Bacardi specifies this, t00), and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish? They say "a preserved cherry" (could be good), but I'd rather a half a lime wheel.

Cheers! I'll see you at Rando at 4!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another Cloudy Friday...

One forgets how deeply strange Spring can be from year to year, no matter how many times one (in this case yours truly) has been through it. Right now, I'm looking out the window high atop the Potter building at a sulky grey sky that's actually some sort of misty moisty thing trying to burn off, although it's almost noon and it should have done that by now. Maybe the weather is feeling as lazy as I've been. But it's cooler, at least...

COOLER at least, you say? You want COOLER in the spring? Yeah, I do. It was 91 degrees in our swanky neighborhood near you earlier this week, and we're talking full-bore Hudson River Valley 91 degrees: schweaty schweaty sweat. I staggered into a few shops in a fever dream in search of sleeveless girly tops that I hadn't worn to death last August. Decided I was too hot to try anything on, and staggered back out.

Today, it's 55 degrees, and it'll get a little warmer, but not much. It was warm enough on Sunday last to have Easter dinner outside--and to HAVE to grill the lamb because roasting it in the house would have made the folks gathered there to celebrate the Resurrection miserable. That is, if they hadn't all been outside, anyway. It's been so unseasonably hot here that I'm sort of lost in time. WAS last Sunday actually only Easter? It could be June...or early September...or late July. The ancient apple tree just outside my office, having miraculously cheated death once again despite the nasty winter storms of only about a month and a half ago (!!), is in bloom. We'll have apples again in the fall, but who knows what temperature it'll be by then?

The knee-jerk thing would be to make a blender drink with melons and rum and mint, but I'm resisting that for now. I've been into a lot of antique gin drinks lately, and I think we'll be enjoying this one today, in honor of Robyn Hitchcock's new CD, released just around the time the temperature started going nuts.

The English Rose

2 oz gin (I'm thinking Plymouth, nothing too funky. You could use Hendricks, I think, too)
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz apricot-flavored brandy
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tsp real grenadine

Shake hard, serve up, garnish with a brandied cherry.

The Internet Cocktail Database suggests a sugar rim for this drink, but I'm thinking that unless you pretty much doubled the amount of lemon juice, it would be too sweet that way. And you should ABSOLUTELY taste before you shake--a little less apricot brandy and a little more lemon juice might be more to your liking.

It sort of fits this week--a recipe I'm still playing with to see if it's going to be sweet or tart. Kinda like the weather.

See you at four Eastern on!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Falernum, again...

...and a gorgeous spring day on which to think about it.

The first time I tasted Falernum (I'd bought a bottle to experiment with some Tiki drinks, in which it's a sometimes ingredient), I figured that it was what the Captain Morgan people were really after--except that it was more like a liqueur than a plain old strong spirit. It's sweet. Wikipedia says there are non-alcoholic versions of it, but I've never seen one.

It improves many, many drinks, though, especially ones made with rum. And so I will celebrate this lovely spring day (after many days of soaking rain) with a Mai Tai, a very good example of a drink that you can make without Falernum, but is MUCH better with a bit thrown in.

There's a lot of back and forth over what is a true, historic, Don The Beachcomber kinda Mai Tai. I'm not Tiki enough to worry about that sort of thing, but here's the ICB recipe for the drink, which does include the golden potion in question:

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain
1 oz light rum (3 cl, 1/4 gills)
1 oz dark rum (3 cl, 1/4 gills)
1 1/2 oz fresh lime juice (4.5 cl, 3/8 gills)
1/2 oz orange curacao (1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
1/4 oz grenadine (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)
1/2 oz orgeat syrup (1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
1/4 oz falernum (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

A Mai Tai is properly served in a tall glass filled with crushed ice, and sipped through a straw, I think. I like a mint leaf garnish. If you're making a bunch of these, taste before you shake for lime juice/sweet balance. You shouldn't have something as tart as--say--an Aviation--but you should be aware of the lime. And as I have found out lately, the better the curacao you use, the better the drink will be. Shop around and spend a few bucks. The stuff goes a long way.

In other news, I've finally got the new ROBYN HITCHCOCK! And so Cocktails with Chris goes forth live on the intertubes at today at 4 PM! We're on the air a day early to kick off the Easter weekend, and to allow a certain otherwise impossibly groovy radio host to sing in her husband's choir tomorrow...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Honeymoons and Spring Fake-outs...

It was warm enough last week, high atop the Potter building, to have all the windows open and to paint the yard furniture. But yesterday, the clouds rolled in again. Today, a nasty thin wind just turned over the garden umbrella we'd rather optimistically raised over two rocking chairs outside my study. The temperature is thirty seven degrees and the unchanging light is the dull, even sort of stuff you get during a snowstorm.

Ken bought me a couple of little azalea plants to put on the porch last week, and I'm going to have to remember to take them inside tonight. When the clouds blow away later, it's supposed to go down into the twenties.

Such is March, and an odd month it's been--health care reform finally passed, Alex Chilton and Fess Parker gone, a week of sunshine and balmy breezes dotting the ends of the bare tree branches with green...and today, murk and shuddery cold. After I do my radio show tonight, and Ken gets back from practicing, we'll probably light the first fire we've had since the big snowstorms of just a few weeks back.

One could spite the turn in the weather with a tropical drink, but I'm thinking something soothing might be more to the point. In my continued exploration of the Ted Haigh Cocktail book, I ran across The Honeymoon Cocktail last weekend. It's a good drink for a night like this: not too winter-heavy, a tad on the sweet side but not cloyingly so. It's a venerable drink, supposedly from The Brown Derby chain in LA. I swore I wasn't going to quote any more of Haigh's recipes in this blog, but after playing with his formula some, I simply can't beat it--with the caveat that although he calls for Calvados, I do use Applejack, which he says is OK. There are other formulations kicking around the web, but many of them call for far too much Benedictine, which will give you something that tastes too medicine-y for me.

Here's what I do:

2 oz applejack
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz orange curacao
1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake hard, serve up in a cocktail glass with a lemon twist. Haigh suggests flaming the lemon twist (putting a lighter to it while you're twisting it over the drink to spark up some of the oil that will emerge, a tricky fillip). That last thing is perhaps advisable to impress your guests or Significant Other on the first round, but if you make a second round, please don't do it. You'll burn your fingers for sure! A plain old lemon twist, while not as sexy as the flamed one, is just fine in this interesting drink.

Anything with applejack in it is bound to be tasty, and with the nicely balanced proportions of Haigh's recipe, the complex flavors of the Benedictine won't overwhelm any amateurs in your crowd. Cheers!

See you at 4 EDT on!

Friday, March 12, 2010

No Penny Whistles--just soda bread and whisky, please...

I don't know how Irish I really am. My dad is pretty thoroughly Irish, but he always claimed that there was French-Canadian in his family. My maiden name is Blanck, which is really Dutch. There are only two things I know for sure about my heritage: a) I'm an Irish/German/English mutt, for the most part and b) I couldn't be a bigger WASP unless my first name were Muffie. Although my friend Tom (Randoradio's Logovore) says Irish people don't count as WASPS. He's probably right--Irish folks are Celts-- but you can't pronounce WCPS. And that doesn't even get into the whole Protestant/Catholic thing...

It's complicated, as they say on Feetsbook.

I do like St. Patrick's Day, though. I don't like the barroom version, where folks put sequined shamrock glasses on and start drinking at 9AM. Nor do I especially love the penny-whistled drenched, misty moisty green public TV version. I like a dinner party with a few friends and family, and I put the cocktail shaker away for this one. Jamesons and water or Guiness to drink, corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, and some simple sweet for dessert. This year I'm thinking of a chocolate cake from the French housewife classic I Know How To Cook. A French cake on St. Pat's is fine, I think. I've actually had terrific French food in Dublin. Anyway: a few Irish cheese and some crackers and fig jam before hand.

Corned beef is something I've loved for years, even the nasty commercial stuff, but if you shop around a little, you can often find butchers who brine their own at this time of year. It's worth the extra effort to do so. DiCicco's in Rockland and Westchester Counties (downstate NY) usually has a barrel of the stuff out.

Here, by the way, is my genuine family recipe for Soda Bread. Notice that it does use white flour, caraway, and raisins or currents. It's Irish-American, not trad Irish. But we've been making the stuff for fifty years anyway, and it's good: neither too sweet nor too crumbly. Toasts up great for days, too. I standardized some (but not all) of my great-aunt's eyeball-it measurements:

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour (unbleached is best)

1 to 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (to taste)

1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

a generous 1/2 stick (4 and 1/2--5 tablespoons) melted butter--use the frying pan you will bake this in to melt the butter

about 1/2 medium box of raisins (can mix golden and brown, or use currents)

2 eggs

2 cups buttermilk

Greased cast iron fry pan to bake it in.

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, sugar, and baking soda. Beat the eggs in a smaller bowl and add to them the buttermilk and the melted butter. Mix wet ingredients well. Sprinkle half the seeds and the raisins into the dry mixture and begin to add the wet mixture on top of it, mixing with a rubbermaid spatula. When you’ve given it a few turns, add the rest of the seeds and raisins, and the rest of the wet ingredients. Gently mix the dough until wet and dry mixtures are combined. Do not overmix. You want a folding motion, and a few lumps are OK as long as everything is moistened and holding together. Dough will be stiff--perhaps like drop biscuits. You may need a tablespoon or two more buttermilk on a dry day.

Put dough into frying pan in which you have melted the butter (you will also have wiped the extra butter up the sides of it, so the dough won’t stick).

Bake at 325 for about an hour. To check for doneness, take the bread out of the oven and gently invert the fry pan, catching the bread in your other (hot gloved!!!) hand. Insert a roasting thermometer. Properly cooked soda bread should be 190 to 195 degrees, and the top will be golden brown.

Eat warm or cool, with butter. This is also good toasted, and will keep in a plastic bag for two or three days.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm on today--Friday the 12th--at 4 PM, as always.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stirrings of Spring

The really peculiar thing about late winter is how intense it can be--and then it just disappears like an inch of overnight snow on a 50 degree afternoon. Which is what's happening high atop the Potter Building, this almost-spring. We're still having cocktails before the fire in the evenings, and it's still pretty dark outside by the dinner hour. But something is stirring.

That got me thinking about highballs today. Highballs, of course, are drinks in tall glasses with ice cubes in, the kind baby boomers like me remember our parents drinking. Nothing like that tinkly-ice-in-glasses sound to evoke a grown-up party of the past! But when I got into making cocktails, I was more interested in the ones you serve "up", in the stemmed, cone-shaped glasses. Those seemed way more Nick and Nora to me. Still, there's a time and a place.

And so today, as I put together thoughts for my radio show, I wandered over to the Internet Cocktail Database to see what their randomizer would come up with for me. Yikes! It was something called the People Eater. Well, at least it was a highball, and I HAD been thinking about highballs. You ready?

1 oz. 151 proof rum
1/4 oz lime juice

Pour over ice in a highball glass, fill with 7-up, and give it a stir.

Um...OK. Actually, I'm no huge fan of 7-up, but I do like highballs with ginger ale. My grandpa introduced me to cocktail hour at an age that would be considered scandalous these days with bourbon and gingers. Here are two drinks I've got the kitchen staff making today, again courtesy of the Internet Cocktail Database--and what a fine public resource it is!

The Buck Jones
1 and 1/2 oz light rum
1 and 1/2 oz cocktail sherry (dry)
3/4 oz lime juice

Pour over ice & fill the highball glass with ginger ale. Stir. I'd garnish with a lime slice.

The Ruby Rangoon
1 and 1/2 oz. gin
1 and 1/2 oz cranberry juice

Pour over ice & fill the highball glass with ginger ale. Stir. I imagine an orange garnish? One could play.

Of course, with any of these drinks, the quality of the finished product depends greatly upon your mixer. I'd go with a snooty ginger ale from a small company--something with some good flavor. Ginger beer might be a little too burny-intense. Leave that for the Dark & Stormies. And I'll tell you a dirty secret: although cocktail purists will scream and tear their hair, if you're watching sugar intake, decent-tasting diet G.A. works in a highball.

See you at 4 on!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Frozen Margarita Snowstorms

Cocktails with Chris is on at 4 PM on Saturday for the first time ever this week. That's because it has been snowing in the swanky neighborhood around the Potter building...and snowing and snowing and snowing...and snowing some more. It snowed from Wednesday night straight through to Friday night this week, and trees fell down and folks' electricity went off. Although we did keep our juice High Atop The Potter Building, it was recommended to us that it would be insane to send our dogsled out in the direction of the studio.

So the party's today, instead.

Today, we are saluting the kind of snow we usually get in our downstate New York vicinity: frozen margarita-like in texture, it fries snow-blowers and torques the lower backs of enough folks trying to shovel it to keep the local chiropractors in BMW's. So why not go with the flow?
Or the slush.

When I first met my husband, he was famed among his friends for a drink he made with blue curacoa that he called The Tidy Bowl Margarita because of its garish hue. It turned tongues turquoise and resembled a cocktail version of that odd disinfectant folks used to put in their toilets back in the 70's. His recipe was simple: equal parts tequila, blue curacoa, and lime juice. Whirl in a blender with lots of ice until it is the consistency of a Slurpee. Pour into a big silly glass, garnish with a slice or lime (or better yet, a paper umbrella), and suck through a thick straw. That worked, but this is better:

The Tidy-Bowl Margie, refined

3 oz tequila
2 oz lime
1 oz blue curacoa
about a cup of ice, preferably crushed

Whirl in a blender, serve the same way. Make sure you whirl LONG enough. You want a very fine consistency so it will go through the straw easily.

Slush outside? Slush inside!

See you on the air!

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Champagne! It's the Prancing Boys!

I'll admit it. I'm just as strung out on the figure skating in the winter Olympics as any other female or gay male in the United States of America. Fortunately, my sister is visiting, so I have someone with whom to watch what her husband refers to as "The Prancing Boys". My own husband just goes upstairs and runs through his Tivo'd collection of old Brit coms. That's another scene. HE's another scene...

"What?" said a very fabulous member of the Episcopal clergy to my sister when she explained to him that she was Otherwise Engaged on a certain evening this week because she'd promised to watch the couples' short program with me. "Doesn't Christine have any gay friends?"

Well, of COURSE I do, silly.

What's been really great this year is that straight comedians and even Olympic commentators have been loose enough to engage in a little affectionate camp humor. That's what I call progress. For real.

You know what's really weird? What's really weird is how butch the American gal half-pipe athletes on their snowboards in their plaid flannel hoodies look, especially next to the feather-fingered Firebird ice-dancing gold medalist of the men's singles.

It's enough to make you crave a cocktail. I searched for things that mentioned "gold medal" in my cocktail books and online, and could only come up with one that seemed appropro, but it sounds fabulous, and fabulous is what is needed here. Again, it's the Internet Cocktail Database to the rescue:

The Olympia Gold Cup

1/2 oz cognac (I'll betcha plain old brandy would be fine)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier (don't skimp here)

Shake hard in an iced shaker.

Top off with 2 oz of champagne, and garnish with half-wheels of lemon and orange and a few cherries (I'd go with brandied ones).

See you on at 4 PM!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who Eats Dinner on Valentine's Day?

...well, everyone, it seems. You'd better already have that restaurant reservation. And there's the matter of champagne, also necessary. For the purpose know darn well what.

And it's all nuts. Not that I don't like all the red hearts and lace, and not that there's anything WRONG with champagne. Champagne is a delightful wine, and it plays well with others. We've talked about the French 75 and how to make a non-fake, worth-drinking Mimosa on Cocktails with Chris before. But here are the facts, and you don't need me to tell them to you:

1) If you eat a big dinner, no matter how romantic and rare the ingredients of it are, you are going to get into bed and fall asleep...and...

2) If you drink a lot of wine, the same thing is going to happen.

Well, maybe not if you are male and 24. In that case, nothing is going to slow you down. But folks like me, richly endowed with the benefits accrued by decades of life, will drift into dreamland. And even when I was young (and quite the fox if I do say so), butter-rich haute cuisine washed down with good wine tended to move me more towards slumber than towards l'amour.

My recommendation: a champagne cocktail or two with some dainty tastes of smoked salmon something, or a bit of ordered-in sushi. Think appetizer portions. THEN get the business of the day underway. Have the main course afterwards. You will thank me for this sage advice later.

Meanwhile, a Cocktails with Chris review:

Two Champagne Cocktails--The French 75 and The Mimosa

1. The French 75

This drink was probably invented by Americans in France around World War One time, and is in fact named after a piece of artillery. It has a rep for knocking folks over, but it's really not that strong, and the unlikely combination of gin and champagne makes it an "up" drink. We're not talking Red Bull and Vodka here (and we never will--yuk), but it's not snooze-y.

The Internet Cocktail Database, often a good source for drink recipes, doesn't do too well with this one. It builds the drink in a tall glass, starting with 1 0z fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp bar sugar, and a whooping two oz of gin, which you stir, add ice, and top off with champagne. Much better is Paul Harrington's take in Cocktail: he uses 4 oz of champagne, and 1/4 oz each of gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice. One shakes everything except the champers in an iced shaker, pours it into a chilled flute, and tops off with the champagne. Tasty and a much better balance. You might want a bit more Cointreau, depending on the wine and lemon's acidity. A good cocktail book I own from Absinthe in San Francisco suggests brandied cherries as a garnish, and if you've got some, they are tasty here.

2. The Mimosa

My time-honored recipe is something one makes by the pitcher, and it might be a nice addition to a Sunday afternoon by the fireside. Take a good large water pitcher, add the juice of 3 or 4 good Florida oranges, a bottle of champagne (pour slowly), and a tablespoon or two of cassis, blackberry brandy or peach brandy. Stir very gently, ice, and serve (over more ice if you want) in chilled flutes. Fresh orange juice is a MUST here.

Happy Valentine's Day!! I can't promise an ultra romantic radio show today--no telling WHAT I'm going to play except I know some Miles Davis--but we'll be talking bubbly and chocolates! Do tune in at 4 on Friday on send up a prayer that the new CD players work!! Glenn Carella and I are installing them in about an hour.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Drinking Commies, My Dr. Cocktail Obssession...

...OK, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh (a man otherwise known as Doctor Cocktail) has captivated me. Up until Ken and I started playing with that book, we were of the firm opinion that there were two ways to come up with a good drink. One of them was to pull out our battered copy of Paul Harrington's 1990's book Cocktail, and the other one was to stick our noses in one of our vintage or vintage repro cocktail manuals (like The Savoy Cocktail Book). From time to time, we'd run across an interesting modern recipe, but we're into the Nick and Nora stuff; blueberries and Dutch gin is just kinda yicky.

Now the Harrington book is out of print and collectable. I just checked Amazon and they have a few new copies--for over a hundred and fifty smackeroos! But Haigh's book is a worthy next step. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is the LOGICAL next step. A little gin-heavy, perhaps (but so many of the really good old recipes are gin-based). And one or two I've found just a wee bit sweet, but then it's always wise to taste any drink before adding the full amount of maraschino or triple sec or Grenadine or whatever. Lemons and limes differ in their tartness, and especially if you're a cocktail do-bee and make your own grenadine, you may have created something a tad more or less sugary than what Haigh calls for.

We'll be talking The Communist today on Cocktails with Chris.

Haigh calls for 1 oz of gin, 1 oz of orange juice, 3/4 oz of lemon juice and 1/2 oz of Cherry Heering (I wouldn't use anything less--no budget cherry brandy). Shake hard, serve up in a cocktail glass. I used a quarter of an orange slice for a garnish, but a lemon slice would probably work, too. A cocktail (brandied) cherry? No, not so much; it would get lost.

The Communist is a drink from the 30's, not too strong (so folks could have two if they wanted), and the appropriate pinko color. Very tasty and easy to like. I used Plymouth Gin.

And I'm not giving away any more of the good doctor's remedies. You'll have to buy the book yourself!!

Having just found out that Steeleye Span founder Tim Hart died on Christmas Eve (how did I miss that?), I'll be playing some of their music, and dipping into the rapidly expanding Randoradio new bin, too! Oh--and maybe a little Who, or at least some Pete Townshend, about whom I don't know quite how to feel with all these scurrilous things being said. But there is a song I'm thinking about that kind of explains it all...

...tune in at 4 EST, have a Commie, and listen up!

Friday, January 22, 2010


My eighth grade history teacher said it straight-out: if you make something against the law, people will crave whatever that thing is. My thirteen-year-old self didn't quite agree; at that point in my life, I was terrified to break rules. I did all my homework, and although I often argued with my parents, I never would have actually DONE anything they told me not to. It was too scary. But I wrote it down in my blue, three-ring binder anyway: Prohibition failed because of the Forbidden Fruit craving that is a basic part of human nature.

And although I have gone through some periods of mildly rebellious activity, I'd make a pathetically timid criminal. Even in my forties, when I was first moving in with my now-husband before we were married, it felt like a big deal to give our new, shared phone number to the English Department Phone Tree for snow days. It was the 1990's! I was LIVING IN SIN!

So let me say that I don't think I would have been drawn to bathtub gin back in the day. But I'm not everybody, and obviously plenty of people were. I do believe that we're not doing college students any favors by prohibiting them from legally drinking until they are 21, and many university presidents agree with me. By forcing alcohol consumption underground, we are encouraging culture of binge-drinking among young adults. When I went to college in the early 70's, my friends and I went to cocktail parties along with our professors--and got so see some of them setting a less-than-sterling example of How To Handle One's Drinks. We rolled our eyes. Seeing someone who could be brilliant and devastating in the classroom get sloppy was actually a pretty stern lesson in What Not To Do.

Were there Animal House-style frat parties? Yeah, but nobody cool went to them. You could get drunk if you wanted to. There simply wasn't any urgency about it, and that was the difference. The tragic stories of kids who die after chugging vodka or Jack Daniels just weren't as common in my generation.

Samey-same with grass, I think. Make it as corporate as Coca-cola, and it'll soon enough lose its patchouli and headshop appeal. Plus a lot of states will fix their budgets in a hurry, as it seems to be the biggest cash crop in more than a few of them.

I've been experimenting with writing some young adult fiction lately, and it's gotten me thinking a lot about the differences between my (boomer) generation and the generation of teens and young adults coming up now. This group of kids seems so much older, and so much harder than we were. I've decided that's a result of the hovering kind of hyper-parenting that much of our generation has ended up doing. We've forced our kids to grow old fast in order to defeat it. The Woodstock Generation did not bring about World Peace. We tended to elect centrist to right-wing Presidents while biting our fingernails to the quick about letting our children walk to the bus stop solo, or about food additives and allergies and play dates and bicycle helmets. No wonder some of them are doing the Janis-Joplin-with-the-Southern-Comfort thing--they can't even go down to the campus pub and order a beer.

Yeah, it's fine for me to say. I didn't have kids. But I sure taught a lot of them.

Well, this certainly HAS turned into a rant. And so I think I'll propose a toast for the week:

The Twelve Mile Limit

This is another Ted Haigh resurrection, although I believe it's also in the Savoy Cocktail book. It's named for the distance out to sea a Prohibition-era cruise ship had to be before the bar could open. Make sure you use decent grenadine--not the supermarket kind. It's easy enough to grab some POM and simple-syrup-ize it by simmering it with slightly less than an equal amount of sugar stirred in for a minute or two, just until it turns clear. That works fine, and it keeps for weeks in the fridge.

1 oz white rum (or you can use silver if that's all you have)
1/2 oz each:
rye, brandy, lemon juice, and grenadine (you may not want to add the full amount of grenadine at first, depending upon how sweet what you're working with is)

Shake good and hard with plenty of ice, and serve up in a cocktail glass. Some sort of lemon-y garnish works well.

See you on the air at 4 PM at

for a sip and some musical surprises!! I promise some Fugs and Holy Modals, too, in honor of Tuli Kupferberg, for whom a benefit is being thrown in Brooklyn tonight--which I sadly cannot attend due to church mouse activities in My Other Life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Stiff Upper Lip

I never thought I'd be someone who worried about being too cheerful. I've always had a bit of an Eeyore-Donkey streak in me. My husband, on the other hand, is like the sun rising on a clear morning.

"You know what I HATE about you?" I snapped at him once, in the midst of an especially intense Personal Cloud of Gloom, "You're an optimist! I hate optimists!"

Fortunately, Ken has lived with me long enough to know that I don't really hate a) optimists or b) him. This despite the fact that I privately believe any airplane I board is doomed. This despite the fact that I have only recently developed unshakable faith in the power of two tablespoons of melted butter, two tablespoons of flour and one cup of milk to make a white sauce--even though I've been making tuna-noodle casserole that way since the 7th grade Home Ec. Somehow, it's always a miracle when the sauce thickens. I know, I know...

But I found myself in an odd role at a funeral last week. I'm a soprano in my husband's choir in My Other Life, and I was standing with the rest of the singers just before the service. And I was making very quiet, cheerful funeral jokes--perhaps you know the kind I'm talking about. Not disrespectful, nasty guffaws, but the kind of small talk about kitties and new cell phones and Life Goes On that you do when you're trying not to cry. And for a minute, I wondered if I was being uncool in doing that, and then I realized that I most surely was not. And in fact that I had quite possibly graduated to a new level of gal-dom. By gal-dom, I mean the state being a gal, which is in my current vernacular a higher form of being a Grownup Woman. A gal has spunk. She is someone with good taste in makeup, the ability to pick up heavy objects without calling for a male, and (get this!!) a stiff upper lip.

And a stiff upper lip requires--gasp--faith, if not optimism.

This week, the news has been unbearable. One must respond, give money, loan one's Facebook status to Docs without Borders...and one must keep a still upper lip.

A drink helps. I like Ted Haigh's take on The Millionaire for this purpose. It's a sunny name for a drink, and we'll be having one on the show on Friday. Here is my take on what the esteemed Dr. Cocktail proposes in his fine volume, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails:

For each drink:

1 and a half oz of Myer's Dark Rum (Gosling's would probably work fine, too)
3/4 oz sloe gin (London sloe gin is good)
3/4 oz apricot brandy
about one ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste.

Shake hard and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass. I garnished with half a lime wheel. The drink comes out an astounding shade of deep red, and is a tad tart, and should be. Add more lime juice if it isn't. A lime will give you a little over an ounce of juice, usually.

Do NOT serve this drink while wearing a white garment, optimist though you might be.

We'll be listening to a little Hendrix-inspired music from Haiti this week, and Mingus' wonderful Haitian Fight Song from his 1957 CD "The Clown". See you on the air!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Still Cold, Still Suggesting Bourbon

I'm on the air as I type these words, playing a cool cover of Yes' "Seen All Good People" by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs--but I'm about to talk about a cocktail called a Derby. Yeah, it's from the Kentucky one, and it may be a warm weather race--but a Derby sure does taste good in January. Happy New Year, by the way--and here's the link to the Cocktail Data Base.

More writing later. Meanwhile, tune iin!!